This is from Thursday morning's "Get Up," and it's a follow up discussion to a segment they did about all of Rob Gronkowski's injuries and surgeries - 20 concussions and nine surgeries in all - and whether or not the panel thinks he and Tom Brady are going to be a huge threat in 2020. By all means catch Damien Woody's take on how Gronk has had a year to rest and lose weight and come back strong. But stick around for the 1:00 mark or so where Dianna Russini reports on conversations she's had with defensive coordinators around the league.
"They're shaking their heads and saying, 'Yeah, Gronk was breaking down a lot when we last saw him on the field," Russini says. "In terms of concern for him being a threat — from what I can gather in my conversations — it’s not a high priority."
She then goes on to acknowledge that he's still long enough to be a threat up the seams. But the people she's talked to don't expect him to be anywhere near the force of nature that he was.
As far as Brady, “It’s all about hitting him,” she continues. “It’s all about getting him on the ground. He is not as dynamic in the pocket anymore. In terms of them as a duo, yes, they are still going to be a threat. But this is not the Tom Brady, the Rob Gronkowski we’ve seen in years past, according to defensive coordinators I’ve talked to.”
My first reaction to this is that if defensive coaches around the NFC East or wherever are looking at Gronk and Brady and seeing them as a reduced threat, like post-war Germany and Japan or whatever, that's at Tampa Bay problem, not mine anymore. But at the same time I'll point out how we were only hearing this stuff in New England for ... oh, about five years or so. And the predictions of their imminent demise were rarely right. Besides, that business of "all you have to do is hit" Brady is the most tired cliche' of the 21st century. If that was all it took, someone would've done it by now. He gets sacked a LOT less than Aaron Rodgers, who's supposed to be as elusive as Road Runner. And watching the doubters be proven wrong as been one right up there with alcohol as one of the great joys of my adult life.
But just to be fair to these coaches who have talked to Russini, the NFL is a game film league. And the last tape anyone had on Gronk, he was very much reduced threat. By the end of the championship run in 2018 he was less like post-war Japan than he was post-Iron Curtain Cuba. A shadow of his former self. Granted, Gronk's shadow will still start for about 27 teams and make the Pro Bowl.
After the "Miami Miracle" game in Week 14 of 2018, he was reduced to essentially being a third tackle, with just 10 targets and four receptions for just 45 yards over the last three weeks. That used to be a below-average half of football for him. I remember thinking that they were just resting him up for the playoffs, but the trend continued. In the Divisional game against the Chargers, Gronk caught just one pass, while Brady was hitting Julian Edelman for 151 yards and James White an astonishing 15 times on 17 targets. He bounced back somewhat with six catches against Kansas City and then the Rams. But for short yards on checkdown throws. What made his final catch, down to LA's 2-yard line, so remarkable wasn't just that it won the frigging Super Bowl, but that it was a 29-yard seam route, something we were no longer accustomed to seeing. Even though they used to be routine.
So sure, I can see DCs getting ready to face the Bucs in the Fall and legitimately wondering how much of old Gronk is left inside of new Gronk. I just remind everyone we've heard this before and they haven't been right yet.